Missouri Can Take a Lesson From Florida’s Toll Roads
I recently spent time in Florida, which included driving from Miami down to the Florida Keys. Along the way, I traveled on several toll roads which are part of Florida’s expansive turnpike system. If Missouri wanted to implement toll roads, Florida’s system serves as a reminder to Missourians that electronic tolling is eminently possible and can raise money from drivers to keep roads in good condition.
Every toll road I drove on was tolled 100 percent electronically—there was no option to pay with cash. My rental car was equipped with a transponder that registered with overhead sensors when driving through a checkpoint. Cars that didn’t have a transponder would have their license plate photographed and a bill sent to them in the mail. Drivers without transponders paid higher rates to reflect the higher administrative costs of physically mailing bills rather than deducting money from an online account.
Toll rates vary by vehicle type and number of axles. The more axles on your vehicle, the higher the toll. Rates also vary by the location of the road. The higher the cost of maintaining the road, the more drivers pay for its use. And while I did not use it on my trip, the Florida Turnpike’s website has an online map that lets drivers calculate the cost of tolls on their trip based on the exact route they plan to take.
Florida’s all-electronic toll roads are the future of tolling. Drivers don’t need to stop and start at every checkpoint, nor do they need to constantly remember to carry cash. Missouri has heavily traveled highways that need rebuilding (page 18), and tolling is a responsible way to raise the money needed to get them back in good shape. It wouldn’t be easy to establish toll roads in Missouri. There are a number of legal hurdles that would make implementing tolling in Missouri a challenge, and voters have been reluctant to accept their use.
But if Missourians knew how easy it is to drive on modern toll roads, they might be willing to give tolling a shot.